Government Senate: Date Created, Functions, Decrees
During the reign of the first emperor of Russia, many radical changes took place in the country: the people's way of life was changing, the fleet was rebuilt, the army was arming, but its main reforms concerned public administration. It is to him that the initiative of the institution of the highest administrative body, which was called the Governing Senate, belongs.
With all the absolutism of power, which was inherent in that period, the emperor decided to transfer part of his authority into the hands of chosen and close people. Initially, this practice was inconsistent in nature, and meetings were held only during the frequent absences of the emperor.
By official decree of Peter the Great, the Governing Senate was established in 1711. It originated not from scratch, the forerunner was the boyar duma that had long outlived itself historically. The new and courageous state demanded order in the law-making and management structure, “the truth and a just court between the people and in state affairs”.These duties and the emperor laid on the new authority.
The question of foreign borrowing
Many historians associate the creation of the Governing Senate (the date of the event is February 19, 1711) with the practice of the emperor to adopt all that is western. However, in addition to a foreign word, there was nothing alien in the new authority; all its structure and functions proceeded only from Russian reality. This was immediately evident from the system of subordination: if, for example, in Sweden the senate could dictate its opinion and will to the monarch, then under Peter this position was simply impossible.
The emperor took as a basis only the idea of European states on the inclusion in the system of government of special institutions and the distribution of responsibilities between different structures. The central authority is now guided not by the ancient law or customs of ancestors, but by a law common to all. The governing Senate under Peter 1 was still an emerging institution, the main purpose of which was to unite the regions under the control of one center. The emperor himself knew and supervised all the activities of his offspring, even while on departures.
The role of the Governing Senate until 1741
After Peter’s death, the central authority existed in its original form for less than one year. In 1727, Empress Catherine I issued a decree establishing special supervision over him, which was the Secret Supreme Soviet. And the Governing Senate in Russia itself was renamed High.
Historians connect the reason for the creation of the observatory body with the personal qualities of Peter's receivers, who did not know how, like him, to lead with an iron hand. The Senate has practically lost its original meaning; its duties now included litigation and minor government work. All this happened under the watchful eye of the Supreme Privy Council, whose members were A. D. Menshikov and F. M. Apraksin.
The situation changed with the arrival of Anna Ivanovna, who abolished the supervisory authority, and all power was again concentrated in the hands of the Empress and the Governing Senate. A reform was carried out, the department was divided into 5 departments, a cabinet of ministers appeared, for whose leadership Biron, Osterman and Minich fought.
The period from 1741 to 1917
Under Elizabeth, the governing senate again received great powers, including legislative activity and influence on foreign policy. However, all the introduction of the Empress abolished Peter III. Under Catherine II, the formation of the state system of the Russian Empire continued actively. The great sovereign did not particularly trust the members of the Senate and, whenever possible, tried to remove certain institutions from the institution and transferred them to the control of trusted people, such as Prince Vyazemsky, Shuvalov and Chernyshev.
The provision on the highest authority in the reign of Alexander I was finally formed. Immediately after accession, he seriously undertook to restore the high role of the Governing Senate in public administration. The result of his efforts was the decree of September 8, 1802, which became the latest legislative act, fully explaining the rights and obligations of this organization. In this form, the institution existed until 1917, when it was abolished.
The device of the Governing Senate
Initially, the structure of the central government had a very simple structure, Peter's decrees mainly concerned his duties and procedure.But with the growing importance of the Senate in the life of the country, its tasks were gradually complicated; a clear hierarchy of management was required. In general, the Governing Senate had the following organization:
- The main work was carried out by senators, they were appointed by the emperor from among civil and military officials, only members of the cassation department should have had at least three years experience in the position of chief prosecutor.
- The institution included several departments (their number was constantly changing), joint presences and general meetings.
- In different compositions and types there existed its own office, usually it consisted of a secret, clerical, provincial and discharge table.
- Even under Peter, a “punitive payment” was allocated, considering petitions and fiscal views.
- Senate offices, whose duties included the management of colleges from across the country.
With each subsequent emperor, the structure of the governing senate was constantly changing, depending on the epoch, new departments and structures were abolished or added, a different order of election and record keeping was established.
Over the two hundred year history of the central government, it has undergone many changes. Gradual changes led to the fact that the Governing Senate, whose functions were prescribed in a special imperial decree, had unique rights, including both the interpretation of laws and the supervision of the activities of controlled institutions.
- One of its most important functions is the opportunity to promulgate laws or to refuse their official publication. The members of the council carried out control over the standardization of state acts, carried out the interpretation of laws, and it was their decision that was final.
- The governing senate supervised the legality of the actions of ministers, ministries, and provincial authorities. Upon detection of violations, the organization was entitled to demand an explanation and, if necessary, punish.
- He monitored elections to local assemblies, the State Duma, city councils, merchants', petty-bourgeois, handicraft institutions, considered complaints by nobles.
- The Senate had the right in case of revealing gross errors in the service of the provincial leaders, to make a remark to them and issue appropriate decrees.
- The cassation department of the governing senate presided over the judicial system in Russia, and its decisions were no longer subject to appeal.
The uniqueness of the powers of the governing body was also in the fact that members of the council had the right to initiate criminal prosecution of the highest administrative officials, county representatives of the nobility and other officials.
Features in the appointment of senators
Under Peter I, members of the council, in addition to serving in this central organization, carried out other government assignments. Therefore, in the sources of that time one can often find a mention of the session not being in full force. Someone was appointed ambassador to Europe, someone went on special assignments to the county cities of the Empire, and it turned out that 5–6 people performed all duties.
The main management function was carried by the senators in the departments, and initially they did not include prominent people of their time, those who were able to lead a strong hand. The fact is that, according to the existing differentiation of government officials, persons with rank III and IV were appointed to the position in the council, and service in government was the height of their careers.Thus, the social position of the members who were part of the governing senate was absolutely not consistent with its high status.
Appointments were made by personal decrees, the senators pronounced the oath, which had been established under Peter I.
State officials under the central authority
Even at the time of the establishment of the Governing Senate, an order was established in which two commissioners were appointed from each province for “demand and acceptance of decrees”. They should be intermediaries between the regional authorities and the senate. Their duties included not only issuing decrees, but also exercising control over execution. Later, these functions were transferred to the colleges.
The Institute of Fiscal was established in 1711, they were the supervisory authority for the actions of the courts, officials of all categories and other government officials. A very big power was concentrated in their hands, essentially because of one denunciation, any person could be accused of a crime. Ober Fiscal subordinate had several approximate assistants, as well as servicemen in every province and even city.
Peter I also wanted to establish control over the Governing Senate, but the problem was finding a person who could supervise the highest authority. Subsequently, the post of Prosecutor General was confirmed. And also it is necessary to mention the retmeister and his office, it was they who accepted the petitions from all over the country and followed the deadlines and the quality of their performance.
The circle of departments
The establishment of the Governing Senate did not immediately solve all the problems of government. The list of departments under control was formed gradually, the first decree obliged the institution to perform the following functions:
- follow the court and verify the legality of their decisions;
- control spending in the state;
- follow the collection of noblemen and literate young boyars as officers who search for evaders;
- examination of goods;
- to bargain with China and Persia;
- control of vilified villages.
The institution could be called the central judicial, military, and financial department that supervised some areas of government.
Peter I noted the inexcusable sluggishness of the work of the whole system of the organ created by him. The institution required a clear order of action, as the institution of office work in the governing senate was gradually organized. In XVIII, the notions of the protocol and the reporting journal were already put into use, but only by the statutes of Alexander II the order of doing business in the departments was finally established.
- A petition, a complaint or other documents come to the office, the staff collected the necessary information, inquiries and prepared a note summarizing the essence of the petition indicating the legal grounds.
- Orally, the report is pronounced before members of a department.
- A vote is taken, and the decision, with some exceptions, should have been taken unanimously.
- The adopted resolution is entered by the office in a journal and a final determination is made based on the results of the meeting.
Before the case went to the departments, all papers were read and controlled by the chief prosecutor, who had the right to make changes or influence the course of the vote.
The governing senate has never been fully an agency that drafts and issues state decrees. Only under Peter and Elizabeth members of the council were given complete freedom of action. For two hundred years of its existence, its main function has taken shape - the regulation and control of administrative management.
In rare cases, the central government could submit a draft law to the emperor and ministers for consideration, although members of the council rarely used this right, since the department did not have sufficient means and capacity to conduct legislative activity. Thus, the decrees of the governing senate concerning the terms of service of officers from the nobility were criticized and rejected by Alexander I.
From the beginning of the 19th century until 1917, the role of the Senate in state administration was the same as under Alexander I. I could not reach this department. After the October Revolution, the council was dissolved, however, the temporary presence resumed during the Civil War in Omsk and Yalta.
The establishment of the Governing Senate marked the beginning of a clear management organization in our country, the experience of the work of the departments in the Russian Empire was taken into account when forming the modern political system.